Midtown landmark bites the dust ‘Very sad’: With the Midtown Hospital gone, residents focus on what may be built. (1999)

The old Midtown Hospital, a contributing structure to the newly designated Midtown historic district, met a sudden death last week when bulldozers moved in to make way for a new commercial project.

"Not a piece of it was saved," said Jim Holbrook, president of the Midtown Neighbors’ Association. "We were looking for somebody to come take the columns, or even relocate the house, but (the developer’s) biggest concern was to tear the house down as quickly as possible. It was very sad."

The classic structure, built early in the century as a private home, was torn down only hours after a demolition permit was issued. Area residents expect the former hospital, at the corner of Juniper Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue, to be replaced with a CVS drugstore.

"The developer won’t admit they’re putting in a CVS, but CVS (representatives) go to the meetings with them," said Randal Lautzenheiser, chairman of Neighborhood Planning Unit E and a Midtown resident. "I’ve seen a proposed site plan with ‘CVS’ on it, and since the plan doesn’t require any variance or rezoning, anything that is allowed by commercial zoning could go there."

Several calls to the developer were not returned.

But a CVS representative said there is no plan for the company to construct a drugstore on the hospital site.

"We have absolutely none," said Vern Netzer, CVS’ regional director of real estate. "The developer has talked to us, and he’s talked to other people, too."

Netzer added that he had no idea when CVS would make a decision on the site.

Just days before the demolition, historic preservation planner Doug Young of the Atlanta Urban Design Commission, along with representatives from the Midtown community and other city agencies, met with the developers, the Zimmer Group of Wilmington, N.C.

Lautzenheiser said his neighbors had hoped to find a buyer who would incorporate the building’s facade into a future project.

"The discussion was about linking (the developer) up with people who could find realistic possibilities," Young said. "But apparently, it didn’t go far enough."

"If they tear down every contributing structure, we won’t have a historic district," Lautzenheiser said. "We’ve tried to go at saving this building from every angle, especially since what they’re proposing is an absolutely horrible plan, and against the Midtown plan. They’re going for a suburban look that puts the building as far back as you can, puts in as much asphalt as you can, and tops it with a big neon sign."

Holbrook does not expect any plans for the site to come up for public review. “If what they build matches the city’s requirements for that area, they don’t have to come before our neighborhood group,” he said.

Now residents will try to ensure that whatever is built on the busy corner is a positive addition to the community.

"What we want them to build is a multi-use building on the sidewalk, with room for a restaurant, offices or a gift shop, with apartments on top and parking in the back," Holbrook said. "We don’t think that’s unreasonable. If they refuse to talk to us, we have no other option but to apply public pressure. We will be their customers, and if they totally alienate the neighborhood, then why are they building this building?"

Credit: Cauley, H MThe Atlanta Journal the Atlanta Constitution [Atlanta, Ga] 22 July 1999: ; JE.1.